Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) unveiled its delayed Nationwide Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Action Plan. The plan is too little, too late, and falls short of what is needed to protect communities from a class of chemicals that are polluting drinking water and air, while exposing families, particularly children, to a myriad of health risks, including cancer.
EPA’s Action Plan does not include a commitment to set a drinking water standard even for PFOA and PFOS, two of the original PFAS that even manufacturers agree are dangerous. In turn, it favors corporate coffers over human health and postpones concrete actions. The plan states that so-called short-term actions are expected to be completed within two years, even though people are being poisoned now.
“This is an action plan with no action,” said Earthjustice attorney Suzanne Novak. “Interim Administrator Wheeler just released a long list of initiating steps that EPA should have been doing for the past few years, but no concrete actions. Meanwhile, PFAS are linked to chronic health issues, even death, and are highly unregulated despite a national emergency affecting entire towns. The EPA’s mission is to protect public health and the environment. This plan fails that mission.”
Chemicals in this class of more than 5,000 substances are found in products like nonstick pans, waterproof jackets, and carpets to repel water, grease, and stains. They’re also used in firefighting foam on military bases and in commercial airports. PFAS don’t easily break down, and they persist in your body and in the environment for decades.
"We cannot wait any longer. We need immediately enforceable regulations set for this class of chemicals,” said Joanne Stanton from the Buxmont Coalition for Safer Water, whose Pennsylvania community has suffered the health impacts that they believe are related to the PFAS-contaminated water they drank for years. “The EPA must enforce a rule that protects children, those with compromised immune systems, and the many living in affected areas."
Some 110 million Americans have been exposed to PFAS through drinking tainted water. Studies in humans with PFAS exposure show that PFAS may affect growth, learning and behavior of infants and older children as well as cause other health issues such as cancer. More than 95 percent of the U.S. population has PFAS in their bodies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.